The Crisis in Grant Hall During World War One

Street Address : 43 University Ave
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Built in 1905, Grant Hall is a landmark building for the campus of Queen’s University due to its tall bell tower. It is named after George Munro Grant who was the Principal from 1877 to 1902. During the First World War (1914 – 1918), this building was converted for a temporary military hospital to house and treat wounded soldiers.

Queen’s School of Medicine admitted during the early 1900s black students, who attended classes in the New Medical Building (now known as Kathleen Ryan Hall and housing the Queen’s University Archives) of 1907. Many of these students came from the Caribbean, and it is thought that they were encouraged to venture north by Dr. James Neish. He was a former member of the Queen’s medical faculty who had subsequently settled in Jamaica. The black medical students appear to have been well integrated into campus life, participating in student clubs, politics, sports teams, and appearing on academic prize lists. But near the end of the war, friction arose between the black medical students and the soldiers, recently returned to Canada, who were being treated in Grant Hall. Some soldiers were vocal in their protests against being treated by black students, some even going so far as to insist that only white students be allowed to treat them. These racist attitudes spread and were picked up by others in the community who also complained. It was known to the medical faculty that both University of Toronto and McGill University had faced similar complaints and consequently were closing their medical schools to black students. This action prompted Queen’s, under stress due to reduced funding during the war, to act swiftly to remove these students. All black medical students, including those in their fourth and fifth year completing clinical courses, were asked to continue their studies elsewhere. This resolution was pushed through the university senate without criticism and passed in January 1918.

The students who found themselves in the unfortunate position of being expelled from the university, did not protest. There is an absence of documentation detailing where they ended up, but it is assumed that most were transferred to larger cities that had greater black populations, such as Dalhousie University in Halifax, where faculty had recommended their transfer. Sadly, black students were not readmitted to Queen’s University Medical School until after the Second World War.

Tours : Black
Heading : The Crisis in Grant Hall During World War One
Location Name : Grant Hall, Queen’s University
City : Kingston


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